Jon Stewart once said on the Daily Show: "When someone says ‘New Zealand’ you may think ‘That’s the place where they shot Lord of the Rings’, or maybe ‘Hey didn’t they shoot Lord of the Rings there?’” So it’s safe to say that New Zealanders know a bit about the films.
But as popular as the movies and books are, video games based on the Lord of the Rings franchise have been less than stellar. The two games directly based off the Academy Award-winning films were okay hack-n-slash games but they were not the epic action-RPG showpieces fans were hoping for.
To rectify this obvious gap, Snowblind Studios has developed an all-new game based on the franchise called The Lord of The Rings: War in the North. Although not directly based on the films, this game is the action-RPG adventure fans have been longing for since the films came out.
The characters are completely new, and given the depth of characters created by JRR Tolkien, that’s pretty amazing. As for the story, while the game does cross over the events of Lord of the Rings your task will be in the opposite direction of Mordor.
The three playable heroes are all unique and specialize in different areas of combat. There’s the human ranger by the name of Eredan, an all-rounder skilled in both long and short-ranged combat; a grumpy and stumpy dwarf named Farin useful for short-range fighting; and a female elf called Andriel, possibly the most useful thanks to the protective bubble she can cast over the group, as well as her devastating magical attacks.
The heroes in this game are likeable enough, although they obviously lack the rounded personalities of the actual heroes from the franchise. Thankfully, some of the characters you know and love show up to chat, including Gandalf, Elrond, Aragorn and most of the Fellowship. The actors sadly haven’t lent their voices to the game, but at least they have still lent their likenesses.
They also tend to talk a lot. This is something you notice reading the books and watching the films. There is a lot of fairly boring dialogue. It’s very authentic-sounding for fans of the books; non-fans who just want to kill orcs can thankfully skip it.
Combat is slow-paced compared to other hack-n-slash games, but it’s gruesomely satisfying. The fighting in this game takes a more realistic approach and is bloody and brutal throughout the game. The coolest thing is getting critical hits or final blows that dismember and decapitate your enemies in slow motion. Ok, it may not be to everyone’s taste, but the slow-motion effects are very enjoyable to watch.
Co-op is equally as fun, and little bit faster-paced. If you want to kill cave trolls a friend is a very good thing to have as the AI doesn’t really understand that you need lots of heath to kill a troll and not protection from arrows.
The main let down for me was the graphics. I wanted to stand atop a hill and see the rolling plains of the Waikato or any of the other landscapes we’ve seen in the movies (not to mention Skyrim).
Overall, Lord of the Rings: War in the North will appeal to fans of the books, but like many games before it fails to live up to the lofty material on which it is based.
Lasting appeal: 7